Trial of ODTÜ students accused of ‘insulting Erdoğan’ to continue despite withdrawal of complaint
Mesut Hasan Benli – ANKARA
The trial of four students and a stationery store owner accused of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will continue even though Erdoğan’s lawyer withdrew the complaint, a court said on Oct. 22.
In the first hearing of the case, Judge Ali Akyan asked the defendants if they agree to the suspension of the pronouncement of the judgement if they are found guilty.
An offense of insulting the president is prosecuted in a criminal case which does not require a complaint or charge from individuals, Akyan explained.
The defendants, all pleading not guilty, agreed to the terms of suspension of the pronouncement of the judgement if they are convicted.
A lawyer of the defendants pointed to the visit paid by the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) students to Erdoğan, saying that a “social accord” had been reached.
“The president has withdrawn the complaint. A social accord had been reached. We suggest, at least, the court could contribute to this accord,” lawyer Faruk Çayır told the 11th Criminal Court of First Instance in the capital Ankara.
The cartoon on a placard carried by the students during their graduation ceremony on July 7 was satirical, not derogatory, he added.
“My clients have exercised their right to criticize,” Çayır said.
The cartoon, showing several animal species with Erdoğan’s face and with a headline “Kingdom of Tayyips,” referring to the president’s middle name, was copied from the comic magazine Penguen, which was sued many times by Erdoğan’s lawyers.
Three students carrying the placard and a student who had brought it to the ceremony in a car were arrested on July 11. Four students and the stationery store owner where the placard was designed were later released pending trial.
On Oct. 16, Erdoğan met with the ODTÜ students at his presidential complex after accepting a request from their parents.
During the meeting, which lasted for 45 minutes in a friendly atmosphere, Erdoğan expressed “uneasiness” about the detentions, daily Hürriyet reported.
Erdoğan’s lawyer, Hüseyin Aydın, had filed a petition to the court to withdraw the complaint, saying that the students apologized for their behavior.